Friday, June 13, 2014

Yankees’ approach to system rebuild makes sense

The New York Yankees have taken fire for several seasons about their farm system. While on the upswing thanks to some shrewd international picks and three first-round draft selections in 2013, the Yankees are still disparaged on the circuit. Is the criticism justified and how are they going about making things better?

Truth be told, the Yankees have had their fair share of players come up through the system in recent years. For every Jacoby Ellsbury, there is a Brett Gardner and for every CC Sabathia, there is a David Phelps (14th round in 2008) or a Chase Whitley (15th round pick in 2010). Maybe Whitley is a stretch, but you get the picture.

The Yankees moved from homegrown international free agent Mariano Rivera to homespun David Robertson in the closer role (17th round pick in 2006). Next in line there? Possibly Dellin Betances; drafted in the 8th round in 2006.

The Yankees spent loads of money on Brian McCann, but they have a talented duo behind him, with John Ryan Murphy (second round pick in 2009) currently excelling in the backup role, and Gary Sanchez (international signing in 2009) finding his way at Double-A Trenton. There is even more depth at catcher with fan-favorite Francisco Cervelli (amateur free agent signed in 2003) and Austin Romine (second round in 2007) who have seen significant time in the Bronx in recent seasons.

The point here is that even though the Yankees will always be a team that outspends just about everyone so long as the Steinbrenner family remains in control, they’ve had their share of talent come through even in seasons when it seemed that all they did was spend. Further, the Yankees have come to realize -- or they now remember -- that there is just as much potential in building a farm system that can churn out Major League talent, whether to grace the grass at Yankee Stadium or to use as an asset to go after a star they feel can make an immediate impact.

So while the Yankees continue to flex their monetary strength in the free agent market, they hit the amateur draft and will follow during the international signing period with a model of securing promising players closer to MLB-ready via the draft (at least in age and experience level) and younger players with significant upside by wielding the wallet in Latin America.

Looking for an immediate impact was something the Yankees focused on in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. Their first selection, Jacob Lindgren, was selected with the 55th overall pick, but is labeled by many, including’s Jim Callis here, to be a potential call up -- this season. The southpaw reliever could translate his college success into the pros, by doing something the Yankees need and value, converting outs against tough left-handed hitters.

The Yankees selected 32 college players (39 total selections) in this season’s draft. They took the approach of grabbing players who might make some noise quickly (or quicker than a high-schooler) in an effort to boost the readiness of their system to impact the big leagues. As it stands, any touted prospects the Yankees currently have in the wings are in the lower levels (Double-A and below). has only two players listed among their top 20 Yankees prospect rankings currently in Triple-A -- Jose Ramirez (12) and Mark Montgomery (14).

The draft methodology complements the strategy they will reportedly employ in regard to the international signing period which begins July 2. The Yankees have been very active in pursuit of some of the best talent available outside those eligible for the First-Year Player Draft.

Kiley McDaniel of claimed back in December and then updated his notions in February that the Yankees will overshoot the approximate $2 million limit and incur stiff penalties next season. McDaniel’s February update (this link is actually a follow-up article, the original link does not work) suggests the Yankees could spend more than $20 million on international free agents according to one of his sources.

McDaniel specifically names six players with verbal agreements he believed to be in place -- Dermis Garcia (3B, Dominican, $3 million), Nelson Gomez (3B, Dominican, $2.8 million), Juan De Leon (OF, Dominican, $2 million), Jonathan Amundaray (OF, Venezuela, $1.5 million), Chris Torres (SS, Dominican, $1 million) and Diego Castillo (SS, Venezuela, $900K).

Cementing the notion, New York Daily News reporters Andy Martino and Mark Feinsand stated the Yankees in fact have verbal agreements with Garcia (but they claim for $3.6 million), Gomez (same bonus as McDaniel stated) and Torres ($2.6 million, noting McDaniel’s number of $1 million).

McDaniel speculated that the Yankees are going for broke this season because they (and others) feel that the rules will significantly change and this could be their last chance to circumvent the international system with cash. The Yankees should absolutely do whatever they can to increase the chances the signings they make with international players pan out and if that means spending more than others, so be it.

The overall draft and international signing attack makes extreme sense to me. It allows the Yankees to infuse the system from the top to the bottom all at once. The Yankees are trying to do everything in their power and within the rules established to quickly and effectively replenish their farm system.

This season could go down as the season the Yankees not only spent significantly on the free agent market to sustain the next few seasons, but also boosted and revived a stale farm system using a strategy of immediacy via the draft and financially securing youth with upside on the international front to bring them through the remainder of the decade.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.